ALTEC Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility – NBTF General

The Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility (NBTF) allows to simulate the movements typical of reduced gravity environment. The facility is utilized for the design optimization of International Space Station (ISS) Habitable Modules as well as allows to develop and verify flight operations and the Astronauts training both in Intra Vehicular Activity (IVA) and Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA). This facility can also be utilized for research and development in industrial, scientific and medical fields, training to Institutional Organization personnel, testing and presentation of diving equipments, education and SCUBA class for diving schools.

Neutral Buoyancy
“Neutral Buoyancy” is the term used to describe something that has an equal tendency to float as it does to sink. Persons and articles that are configured to be neutrally buoyant (which is accomplished with a combination of weights and flotation devices) seem to "hover" under water. In the particular case of the Space Program applications, large and neutrally buoyant items can be easily manipulated much like on orbit.

NBTF Description
The NBTF is composed by: _ a water tank with support systems _ a control room _ a meeting room _ a medical room _ two dressing rooms with baths and showers _ a mock-up / models / heavy items handling system  

Water Tanks Size The water tank is an octagonal pool with 9.3 m between opposite walls and 5 m in depth (all above ground level). Four of the eight walls are provided with transparent glass to permit observation of activities inside the water tank. The tank holds 340.000 liter of water.

Control Room The NBTF control room is the “Operative Centre” of the facility (adjacent to one of the four transparent walls) and provides area where resources for all disciplines involved in the execution of test and training sessions: facility operations, safety, communications, video support, medicine, support divers, crew training, and technical observers.

Medical Treatment Support Equipment
A small medical team is present to monitor the condition of all dive personnel. A dedicated room is available for medical pre-dive/positive check and resolution of emergency problems.

Communication Systems – Audio A full complement of voice communication systems is available. This includes one-way communications capabilities from control room to water via two underwater speakers, which allow the dialogue among the divers and the Audio Operator, in particular to instruct the test subjects during Intra Vehicular Activity (IVA) or normal diving (SCUBA); two-way communication capabilities among the test subjects during Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA – wearing a dedicated suit) and the audio operator is also available. Audio is also available for public dissemination.

Communication Systems – Video Video coverage of all NBTF activities is accomplished using hard-mounted and handheld cameras. The video is used by the Video Operator to guide the divers as well as the Test Subjects to correctly perform the tasks. Video recording capability is available as well.
Heavy Items and Mockup Handling Crane

The NBTF provides one overhead bridge crane (capable of lifting 12.5 tons) for heavy items and mock-up handling into and from water and to configure mockups for each test and training session as necessary.

Water Treatment System Water is continuously recycled. It is automatically monitored and controlled to a temperature of 27-29 degrees Celsius to avoid hypothermia conditions. It is also chemically treated (Ph 7.50) to control contaminant growth while minimizing long-term corrosion effects on mockups and equipment.

Contact Points:
A. Bellomo –ALTEC S.p.A. Scientific & Ground Applications Programs
Phone: 0039 – 011 – 74 30 453
Fax: 0039 –011 – 74 30 064
E-Mail: alessandro.bellomo@altecspace.it
M. Benassai –ALTEC S.p.A. Medicine & Biotechnology
Phone: 0039 – 011 – 74 30 078
Fax: 0039 –011 – 74 30 064
E-Mail: mario.benassai@altecspace.it